For many bands, music is like a battle than can only have two outcomes: survival or death. While there are many who make it out alive, the casualties cannot be ignored.
Jesus On Extasy are the perfect survivors. The German industrial rock band has managed to overcome potentially fatal disappointments and emerge victorious from the war within itself, but also the one fought against an insatiable industry that claims the talent (and life) of those who don’t believe in their craft.
JoE came to life in 2005 and was the brainchild of Chai Deveraux (guitar, synth, programming) and Dorian Deveraux, his cousin. From the first notes, you could hear that they wanted to be a bit different, more melodic and poetic, from the other industrial rock acts. After launching a number of highly acclaimed albums (Holy Beauty, Beloved Enemy, No Gods) and going through several line-up changes (the departure of Dorian in January 2011), JOE is ready to take you to their magical world again.
Their last album, "The Clock" came out in October 2011 and shocked the industrial rock-scene, and the band’s fan-base, with its bold style experiments and its desire to stray away from time-honored, "old JOE" principles. Chai was kind enough to talk to us about the style changes, what it takes to survive disaster and how important it is to believe in your art.
Read an exclusive interview below, courtesy of Chai Deveraux and Jesus On Extasy.
I know you’ve been through some tough times with JoE, coming close to dissolution. What does it take to rebuild a band from scratch and how did the changes impact your view on music?
Chai: First of all, the changes seem so far away from me, because there was a very long period of hard work after them. Of course, itÂ´s not that easy to start over the way we did, but it was well worth it. To carry on with JOE the way we were, with the old lineup, would have been comparable to a band-suicide. JOE was, is and will be my baby. And it was time to say "Stop" to the people who would have killed it in the end. And I’m not thinking about the band-members when I make this statement. All the business around the band, all the people that "help" you as long as you earn money for them… I really started to hate being part of the music-industry, and I realized I was going to lose the ambition to create music, to feel music, to live music. Time for an emergency break!
You have chosen a female vocalist, who, by the way, is very good. In what way does this alter the "spirit" of the songs?
Chai: Oh, of course in many ways. In my opinion, it carries the listener deeper into the songs, into what we want to tell. That was very important for me. It opened more dimensions for me as a songwriter.
Why didn’t you just find a male vocal replacement?
Chai: There are 2 reasons: 1st, I didnÂ´t want people to compare the new singer to the old one. No one would have won this game in the end. And people should focus on the music, not on the stuff around the music. This lead to many, many discussions and the appearance of evil spirit in our fanbase. The were a lot of people who were starting to get angry, writing evil messages to us, because we killed their idol. We just laughed about it. People who focus only on the looks of the front guy, we can get used to living without them.
„Iâ’ve always made music from the heart, not to amuse other people”
Your sound is a bit more gothic, more melodic and epic, less trashy-electro-industrial, which led some of your fans to say that we were dealing with a completely different band. What can you say to these critics?
Chai: Let me put it this way: IÂ´ve always made music straight from the heart, not to amuse other people. There were a lot of bands that picked up our old style, and did it all over again, album by album. To get stuck means to die. LetÂ´s play a game: Think about the "No Gods"-album. Erase the vocals, just hear the music. Then think about "The Clock" and do the same. You will see that it is only the standard-progress we always experienced from album to album. I donÂ´t expect people to like the new stuff, but we have always wondered whether they will or not.
How would you "label" your new style?
Chai: ItÂ´s still JOE. What people always forget: I do music with my heart and this could mean that the next album is pure hard old-school industrial rock. I don’t know yet. But we learned one thing with this release: People showed their real face and showed us what they used to think about this band. Funny what some people posted on Youtube etc…They "knew" more about the band than we ever did.
The new record reminds me a bit of "London After Midnight". Which were your main influences on this new album?
Chai: Oh, itÂ´s hard to say. I love London After Midnight, but I donÂ´t think itÂ´s an influence. I try to combine all the melodies and riffings that come to mind. That’s it. The biggest influence is my life, walking the streets, watching people, thinking about what we are doing on this planet.
Talk to us about your literary influences. When I listen to the album, I think about 18th century Romanticism.
Chai: That is a very cool association. When I start to write songs, I always see things, pictures. There are two kinds of lyrics (conc. my lyrics). On the one hand, I try to tell a story (Snow Of Syberia). On the other hand, I write very personal lyrics, like a direct look into my heart, like a snapshot of a feeling. I love writers like Poe, Hemingway, Voltaire etc. They all lived in different times, but all of them knew what life was about. And they tried to fight ‘till the end. ItÂ´s sad to see that great artists are worshiped for their art but not for their life, the one they had to live. It sounds a little pathetic, but today people lose more and more respect for music and artists. They just consume and inhale whatever you give them. Sad but true.
„The Clock is a foundation for the next steps”
The name of your latest album is "The Clock" and the lyrics deal with themes like time, alienation, loss, melancholy. All in all, the record is more poetic and sentimental. Why didn’t you go in the opposite direction, making music that was even more experimental than the "old" JoE?
Chai: Maybe that will come with the next album. Right now I feel that I want to make some experiments. After the change inside JOE, I needed an album that would sound like this. A lot of other stuff happened to me up until the day I started to write "The Clock", stuff that didn’t concern the band. I had to deal with a lot of scary situations in my life and I needed a ground-zero, a base for the new chapters of JOE. So "The Clock" is kind of a foundation for the next steps. Like I said in the booklet "This is the first step…"
Tell us a bit about the symbols. The cover art depicts a beautiful gothic model lying on a frozen clock. What inspired you?
Chai: The artwork was made by Vision Faux, an awesome artist. I love her work. No question, she was the one who visualized what I had in my head, stuff that isn’t always fun, as she can say for herself. Seriously now, she was inspired by our song-demos and, in the end, we realized nothing would have fit better the album than this artwork. I love playing with beauty. The girl on the cover is part of this big machine, just a little fragment in a universe controlled by time. And her only way to stop time is to freeze the clock. I wanted a timeless scenario. This album is the first part of a triloogy, and there will be more surprises that people have to deal with. I want our fans and the people who listen to us, to know that they can’t predict what we will do next. ThatÂ´s life.
The name of your band has some sort of messianic undertone and your last video, "Lost in Time", speaks about the havens accessible to those who have lost everything. Do you think music can offer refuge for escapists?
Chai: I donÂ´t know if our music can, but, in general, I would say yes. Music is like a universal language, with many slangs and dialects, but with which we can communicate nearly everywhere. I think music can give you strenght, but it can also kill you. I have friends who canÂ´t listen to the song "The Clock". They donÂ´t want to, because they know the situation I was in when I wrote it. Music is mighty. It can take control of your feelings, if you let it. What I can say right now is that the next album could get a little bit more aggressive, because what we experienced after the "restart" gave us a lot of inspiration!
Thank you Chai for making the interview happen!